Local leaders discuss plan to combat heroin abuse

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — There are new concerns over heroin abuse in the area. As deaths by overdose increase, local leaders are discussing how to stop them.

“In Chesterfield County alone heroin deaths, overdoses, have outnumbered traffic deaths,” said Denise Thomas-Brown with the SAARA Recovery Center.

Thomas-Brown now works to help addicts recover from their addictions. She’s 20 years sober from her own addiction to heroin.

“The withdrawal from heroin is so severe, you don’t actually die from it but you kind of wish you would,” said Thomas-Brown.

She was one of the many at a heroin summit this week talking about how serious the problem has become for our area and the need to for solutions.

“Chesterfield, Henrico, Richmond. This was an effort to bring all our communities together, work together and learn our best practices so we can combat this problem together,” said Dr. Allen Yee, Medical Director for Chesterfield Fire and EMS.

Yee says the drug has taken over all demographics in all areas and is causing a big jump in overdoses.

“The last two years, there’s actually been a significant climb of deaths from heroin abuse,” said Yee.

It’s a fight the governor and lawmakers have also taken on, creating a task force and passing several bills to combat heroin use including giving more emergency responders like police the ability to use the prescription drug Narcan, to counteract the effects of a heroin overdose. It’s something fire and EMS workers have been using for years.

“When you die from an opioid overdose, a lot of the time it’s from not breathing, this actually reverses that,” said Yee.

“Those few minutes could mean the difference between life and death for someone who’s overdosing,” said Thomas-Brown.

Leaders are hoping cooperation cuts down on heroin use, and saves thousands of lives in the process.

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